Your Skin Barrier
Updated: Nov 14, 2018
You probably heard of a broken skin barrier, but do you know what it means?
The skin barrier refers to the barrier function of your stratum corneum, the top epidermis layer of your skin.
The stratum corneum comprises of 15-20 layers of corneocytes (dead, flattened squamous cells) that is surrounded by an optimal mixture of lipids (mainly cholesterol, fatty acids, ceramides). This thick layer of cells provides the barrier function to the skin – prevents excessive water loss and entry of unwanted toxins, allergens and irritants.
Skin barrier can be disrupted by daily air pollutants, excessive sun exposure, excessive exfoliation, aging and medical conditions. Harsh cleansing that strips the skin of its natural oils will damage the barrier function as well.
Effects of a compromised skin barrier
When the skin barrier is compromised, your skin will become dry and irritated. Water loss or entry of microorganism are not well prevented, which leads to inflammation and sensitivity.
The deeper layers of skin will also be sensitive and easily irritated. Often, your skin will feel itchy, dry, tight, or even painful. A dull and tired skin may suggest a broken skin barrier too.
Repairing your skin barrier
Luckily, your skin is a self-healing organ! With some TLC, your skin barrier can be restored in a month's time (28 days is the approximate time for skin to renew)!
Apply cream containing lipids that are similar to the skin’s composition, such as ceramides-containing cream.
Keep skin moisturized with products containing humectants and emollients to maintain a healthy skin barrier. Look out for the moisturizing ingredients such as glycerin, collagen and stearyl alcohol!
Minimize physical and chemical exfoliation! Excessive exfoliation removes the protective layers of corneocytes and lipids faster than they can be replaced. Allow your skin time to recover by not stripping off these precious, protective layers!
Use gentle cleansers. Cleaning should not come at the cost of your skin.
Use gloves when dealing with harsh cleaning chemicals! The reason why they are great cleaning agents is that they strip away grease (& the precious lipids on your skin)!
Apply skin care products that protects against UV and pollutants.
Adopt a healthy diet of healthy fats and oils.
Say no to smoking! The cigarette can reduce blood flow and oxygen to your skin, resulting in dry and unhealthy looking skin.
Now that your skin barrier is restored, keep in mind these TLC steps to maintain your health skin!
Stratum Corneum: the role of lipids and ceramides by Nava Dayan, in Cosmetics & Toiletries magazine, Vol. 121, No.1/January 2016